What you’re not told when starting uni – Tip #1

Tip #1: Non-compulsory classes are non-compulsory for a reason

It’s not easy to become a university tutor/lecturer/subject coordinator. It takes years of hard work, undergraduate and postgraduate study, plus original contributions to your field as well as continually having to prove your credibility. In general, teachers at university know what they’re doing.

Yet, as you look at your timetable, you may notice that while some classes have compulsory attendance, others are optional. For those of us who’ve graduated from a typical school on Earth, the idea of not attending a scheduled class is as unthinkable as going back to MySpace. Why would so many teachers choose to give students the option of not attending a class? It’s no less work for them, as they have to turn up and teach the class anyway.

The reason comes from the fact that the vast majority of teachers know that some content is not useful to all students. They carefully choose which lessons are compulsory and which are optional based on what needs to be taught to all students, and what might be prior or unnecessary information for individuals. This is why most subjects have a compulsory component (usually a tutorial or a seminar) and an optional component (usually a lecture).

For example, if you’re taking a subject which has some overlaps with your previous learning, you may find that some lectures will simply be going over content which you already know, for the benefit of others who don’t have your background. However, a lot of students who find themselves in this position and know that they’re about to attend a lecture in which they’ll learn nothing new, will do so anyway, because they feel that it would be bad to miss it.

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However, this is not true. In fact, this is exactly why almost all teachers make attendance at particular classes optional. They know that some students could put that time to better use.

Some people allow this new-found liberty to rush to their heads, and don’t attend any classes that are optional, and of course I’m not recommending that. But if you find that you could make better use of your time than attending a class which will cover material that you already know, remember that you wouldn’t be doing anything wrong – rather, that’s what your teachers want you to do. That’s why they make certain classes optional.

See here for tips #2 and #3  (you know you want to).

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